Friday, April 27, 2007

a Tete-a-tete!

Had an interesting conversation with Leonard Marcus this week. It is, of course impossible not to have an interesting conversation with Leonard! We first talked Red Sox vs. Yankees. He and his son Jacob are intense Yankee fans, but have to know in their heart of hearts that the Yankees are going down this year; the Red Sox are going to kill them, every time, no question.

Leonard, who will be receiving an honorary doctorate of letters from Bank Street College of Education this May, is contributing a piece on Teddy Roosevelt’s boisterous gang of children to the NCBLA’s upcoming Fall 2008 book, Through White House Windows; Looking In, Looking Out.

When I need some out-of-the-box thinking relating children’s books and needs to the broader world, Leonard is one of my go-to guys. The NCBLA’s is working with ALA and The Center for the Book at the Library of Congress to create a summit, Democracy @ Risk, on informed citizenship linking literacy, critical thinking, and free unfettered information access to responsible citizenship in a democracy. Leonard suggested that I find the editorials of Frederic Melcher, an editor at Publisher Weekly’s in the 1950's and 60's. Melcher not only created the Caldecott and Newbery Awards, he originated Children’s Book Week- that’s major league advocacy!

Leonard said Melcher strongly believed that literacy was the key to preserving democracy; that children’s books were the key to fostering literacy. And what is more, these expressed beliefs and actions had all the more impact at the time because Melcher was: A. male; and B. a professional from the world of adult publishing.

Melcher sounds like a marketing genius. He was able to grab national attention because his children’s book advocacy and public relations campaign was highly coordinated bringing many factions of the children’s book and publishing world together in a united force. It brings to mind the superb campaign of the environmental community who, working together in an orchestrated effort have not only captured our attention and educated our nation, but have inspired people to action. The children’s book and literacy community does not do that. Events and celebrations of children’s books and literacy happen sporadically all over the calendar, garnering little national attention. The NCBLA has long advocated that the children’s book and literacy community work together sharing ideas, resources, and yes, revenue, to build an impressive national education and advocacy campaign for children, books, and reading. It will take a huge sustained effort to grab the nation’s attention. And with literacy rates dropping, and reading rates dropping, too, we are in desperate need of an united educational effort.

Off the soapbox and back to Leonard! Leonard has a number of books out of interest to parents, teachers, and children’s literature aficionados including his latest: Pass It Down: Five Picture-Book Families Make Their Mark was just published by Walker Books for Young Readers. This is a book for middle-grade children, their teachers, librarians. The creative families profiled include: the Pinkneys, Hurds, Rockwells, Myerses, and Crewses.

His illustrated history of Golden Books is called Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way. It will be published by Random House in October. A companion illustration exhibition, also called Golden Legacy, featuring original art from classic Golden books by Garth Williams, the Provensens, Tibor Gergely, Feodor Rojankovsky, Gustaf Tenggren, Mary Blair, Richard Scarry, and others, will open at the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature in Abilene, TX in early November and then go out on tour nationally.

And last, but not least, Children Should Be Seen: The Image of the Child in American Picture-Book Art, of which Leonard is the lead curator, will be The Eric Carle Museum's (Northhampton , MA) fifth-anniversary exhibition. It is co-sponsored by The Katonah Museum of Art (Katonah, NY), where it will open (first) on July 1, 2007, before traveling to the Carle Museum, on November 15, and then continuing on to The Getty Gallery of the Los Angeles Public Library in 2008.

Learn more about:
Leonard Marcus and his work-

The National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature in Abilene, TX-

The Eric Carle Museum in Northhampton, MA-

The Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, NY-

The Getty Gallery, the Los Angeles Public Library in Los Angeles, CA-

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